The best art fix this fall: Shary Boyle’s exhibit at the AGO

The best art fix this fall: Shary Boyle’s exhibit at the AGO

Multidisciplinary indie whiz Shary Boyle festoons the AGO with her twisted porcelains and portraits

Shary Boyle’s art—preoccupied as it is with mythology and fables, beauty and sexuality—has a quietly astonishing, grotesque power that won her last year’s $25,000 Gershon Iskowitz Prize. This fall, the AGO unveils Boyle’s Flesh and Blood, a four-room show devoted to, among other works, her delicate porcelain miniatures, droll portraiture and an installation of a haystack with two enormous, copulating figures—a mosaic tile-covered woman and a scarecrow. It’s hauntingly good fun.

Are you surprised to see your art at the AGO?
My kind of work has lots of fans, but it isn’t usually institutionally sanctioned. I hope this makes room for other artists who also aren’t a part of the grad school conceptual dialogue that’s been happening for a while.

Human-scarecrow love is unusual territory. What was your inspiration for that installation?
A few years ago, I drew an image of a scarecrow and a tired-looking older woman making love in a hayloft. It was very evocative—sad but strangely sexy. Sometimes ideas like that stick with me for a long time. It’s as if they haven’t found their full expression, their perfect description.

Are people ever offended by your stuff?
I ask audiences to be quiet and sincere and consider things that might be hard—death, illness, trauma, sexuality. I know my work strikes nerves, but I try to temper that with beauty, craft and humour. It’s important to be generous when being difficult.

How did you choose the show’s title, Flesh and Blood?
It refers to the body, the visceralness and fragility of being human. It’s a nice contrast to materials like porcelain, the inanimate quality of the human stand-ins I have in all my pieces. And it’s also the association with family. I always consider my work family of some sort.

Do you spend a lot of time alone?
More than a lot of people. I like to be alone in my studio for long hours, leading a quiet dream life, just making things. I can’t share a space; my collaborations are rare and are often conducted separately. Solitude is crucial to be able to listen to yourself.

Flesh and Blood
Sept. 15 to Dec. 5, Art Gallery of Ontario